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Free Study Guide-Black Boy by Richard Wright-Free Online Book Notes
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Richard reaches Memphis on a cold morning in 1925. As he walks along Beale Street looking for accommodation, he notices that outside an apartment, there is a board announcing the availability of rooms. Then he looks into the face of a fat and elderly, but smiling Mulatto Woman, peeping out of the window. Richard mistakes her for a prostitute and walks away. The woman calls him back and assures him that she is a respectable woman. Richard accepts the room at two and a half- dollars a month. Richard is very happy that he has got a decent lodging on the first day of his visit to Memphis. He therefore dozes off to sleep. When he wakes up, he joins the family for lunch. Mrs. Moss introduces her teenaged daughter, Bess to him. The girl is charming and vibrant. Mrs. Moss hints that she would like Bess to marry a boy like Richard. The girl too responds enthusiastically to the suggestion. Feeling embarrassed, Richard decides to keep a distance from them.

In the evening, as he goes about exploring the streets of Memphis, a board outside a hotel catches his attention: the hotel is looking for dishwashers. Richard meets the Manager of the hotel and gets the job at $10 a week. He is happy that he has acquired a job with good salary, as it would enable him to save money for his trip to Chicago. Returning back, he informs Mrs. Moss about his job at the hotel. The landlady is happy with his situation and persuades him to have food with them. Bess forces herself on Richard and cajoles him to make love to her. Richard gets tempted but pulls himself up.

In the morning, to avoid meeting Bess, he eats canned food in his room before going out. On the way, he meets a vagabond who seeks his help in lifting contraband liquor and selling it to a White man. The boy promises to share the amount with Richard but makes his escape. Richard realizes that both the boy and the White man have used him to bootleg the liquor.


Memphis brings both surprises and shocks to Richard. After having heard shady rumors about Beale Street, he feels hesitant about inquiring for rooms from a fat, Mulatto woman. He mistakes the simple woman to be a whore and walks away from her house in fear. However, when the lady proves her identity and convinces him about her respectability, Richard is happy to have got accommodation in a decent home. To add to his joy, he finds a suitable job in a hotel, that same evening. Richard is delighted at the prospect of earning two dollars a week and two free meals a day. This much for the surprises!

Bess, the daughter of the landlady makes overtures at Richard. She professes her love to him and asks him to marry her. Mrs. Moss also encourages her daughter to get close to Richard, since she takes a liking to the boy and decides to have him as her son- in-law. Thus, Bess makes indiscreet remarks and lures Richard towards her. Richard almost gives in. However better sense prevails and he escapes out of the clutches of Bess.

However, his experience outside the house does not prove that lucky. He gets into a trap laid by a Black boy and a White man and unknowingly helps them to transport the contraband liquor to the car. Like a fool, he believes that the boy would share the five dollars with him. Only after the boy disappears from the scene, does he realize that he had been used. Thus, Richard has a good share of surprises and shocks, as soon as he enters Memphis. He meets both the good and the bad, and the experience makes him mature and prepares him for the future.

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Free Study Guide-Black Boy by Richard Wright-Online Chapter Summary


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